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Jack Maltisanti

Extra Life 2021

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8 tips to be a writer and make a living from writing

Being a writer and making a living from writing is a dream for many. All of us who love writing aspire to pay our bills with our letters. But doing it is more complicated than it seems. Launching into this world without a net is dangerous, since there are many aspects that are unknown. In this article I want to explain what it is to be a writer and give you some tips to make a living from writing.

Can you make a living from writing?

In reality, you can live on anything. You could even sell fairy dust, and if you did it right, you could make a living from them. So, can you make a living from writing? Of course yes. Of course, do not expect it to be easy.

One problem that I usually find among people who pretend to be writers is that they tend to think that this will be arriving and kissing the saint. If you want to be a writer, forget about everything you've read about Rowling, King and Meyer. Bestsellers are isolated cases. The most normal thing is that your first books go unnoticed.

To make a living from writing you need to work a lot. You have to sit down day by day, write and publish. In the age of Amazon, where more than 1000 books are published a day (on the low side), succeeding first time is as difficult as hitting a full fifteen.

The best thing you can do for your writing career is to publish books consistently. You can do it on your own, publishing on Amazon or managing the publication of your books on your own. You can try publishing with publishers. Or you can do both and take advantage of the best that both worlds have.

What do you need to make a living from writing?

Well, some of these things would not hurt:

  • Know how to write (obvious).
  • To plan.
  • Spend time daily on your writing.
  • A computer.
  • Be a great reader (or an average reader, but you have to be a reader).
  • Have a lot of patience.
  • Being tenacious and not giving up easily.

How to be a writer

This is the big question, right? According to Stephen King, there is only one way to be a writer: by writing a lot and reading a lot. I would add one more: managing frustration very well. Because yes, being a writer is often frustrating.

And it's not frustrating because publishers don't publish you or because they don't select you in contests. It is because it is tiring, it is lonely and, almost always, it seems that you move in a kind of limbo in which you pay for the sins of your past lives by being invisible.

To be a writer you need to have ideas (we all have that), know how to turn those ideas into words (that's already a bit more difficult) and make those words make sense and be "drinkable" (this is already much less common).

Why am I saying this?

There is a common and silent idea that extends to those who start to write and that is that "you only need talent to write." Or worse, you just need to know how to write (in a society like ours, we all know how to do it).

I'm going back to Stephen King again. The king of terror says in his book While I Write (a book that you have to read yes or yes if you want to be a writer) that talent is as common as salt on the table. For King what really differentiates the amateur writer from the professional are thousands of hours of intense work.

So, if you are the person who orders texts from college essay writing service (, better forget it and dedicate yourself to something else. On the other hand, if you are willing to mortgage your life and sell your soul to the key, go ahead.

Here are 8 tips for being a professional writer that I hope will help you.


Of the millions of tips to be a writer that you will come across, this (and the next) is the only one that you should heed.

Writing is like a muscle. Unless you are a wonder of nature, to build muscle you have to train. Usain Bolt said in an interview that the difference between him and other people is that he spent four years training to run nine seconds, while most quit after a few months because they did not see results.

Writing has learning curves. We all know how to write when we leave school, but not all of us are writers. In the same way that we can all run, but we are not Usain Bolt. To be a writer you must train and there is no better way to do it than by writing.

I would tell you that you have to write every day, but since I am not a robot (surprise, I am a person like you!) I will not. Because I know it is very complicated. There are busy days, absorbing jobs, family, plans, and basic needs like rest. In addition, there are complicated situations, losing streaks and hundreds of other things that keep you from writing.

What I will tell you is that you write a lot. That you do it whenever you can. Force yourself from time to time if necessary. Do it consciously, look at your most common mistakes and try to fix them. Write a novel, write short stories, step out of your genre, and explore new characters and situations.



Reading is also part of the training for the writer. If you like soccer (or any sport) you will have seen that coaches force their players to watch their rivals' matches. It is a way of learning, of knowing new tactics and improvised plays, of seeing how a certain player moves.

If you want to write you have to know what you are doing. You have to know your trade. You become an electrician without knowing, at least, that the inside of a cable pupates. You don't become a professional marksman without knowing which part of the rifle the bullets come from.

Reads a lot. Unlike writing, which requires effort on your part, reading can offer you a moment of peace. It is a refuge after a busy day, it is a moment of calm when you have a lot of work.

Reads a lot. Read good books to see what to do and read bad books to find out what not to do. Read books of your genre for recurring themes, tropes, and characters, and read books from other genres to see other styles, languages, and other characters.

I write horror and I love to read King. However, my favorite readings are far from horror. I love reading contemporary novels, I love Carver's characters, Steinbek's style and Kerouac's lyrics. Reading everything will help you create your own style, first through imitation and then through internalization.


Would you present yourself to a cardiac surgeon without having studied Medicine? Would you become a commercial flight pilot without having gone through a flight school? Will you dedicate yourself to illustration or painting without artistic training? Certainly not, however, everyone has the feeling that he can write ... I guess because of infused science.

This is actually quite a common problem and it is because there is no "official" writing training program. Think about it, there is it for the rest of the arts. Conservatories, schools of art, dance...

But what about writing?

The fact that there is no formal training does not exempt you from your responsibility as a writer, which is none other than training. Even if it's on your own. There are hundreds of blogs of writers, editors, and publishers on the Internet offering advice. There are very good writing manuals and there are also courses (on the same MOLPE platform you have a master class of recognized writers) and schools for training writers.

Training is important. The writer needs to know very well what his tools are. You need to understand how literature works, its structures, characterization, dialogues. Many of these frameworks and paradigms we have internalized thanks to reading, but we do not know how to use them consciously and that is why training is so important.

Writing needs something called "deliberate practice." That is, you need to be aware of what you are doing. You have to look at what you do well, what you do wrong and look for ways to improve. Otherwise, writing stalls and over time, you lose muscle.

It doesn't matter what you think you know. It doesn't matter that you've been writing since you did the spear military. There is always room for improvement. Put aside your pride as a writer and ask for help.

Product development

Well yes, to be a writer you should know something about product development. What they now call product manager .

So that?

Well, to present to your readers a book in conditions. Do you know what is one of the main functions of a product manager ? Finding the target audience for the product under development.

One of the main questions they ask me is related to exactly that. "I don't know what my target audience is, how can I know?"

The answer is as simple as it is complicated: listening and analyzing.

In the first place, it is convenient to abandon certain riddled thoughts of the type: "a book is not a product, it is a work of art." If you think that books are works of art, I have some objective evidence accounts on my Kindle that certain works of art look a lot like trash.

Books are products, because they require prior development. From the title, to the cover, everything should be focused on pleasing your audience. And the thing is, until now you have been lonelier than one, but you write the book for others, never for yourself. Being clear about who your reader is and what they want will make things much easier for you.

If you are also a freelance writer, much of your time will be spent manufacturing your product. So all the more reasons to know what to do.


The word taboo.

I am amused by the paradox. Everyone rants about marketing on their blogs, which is marketing yourself at the expense of marketing. I always say the same thing, nobody forces you to do marketing, you can go beyond marketing. Then you will not sell books and blame the sursum corda.

There is nothing wrong with marketing. He doesn't insult you, he doesn't look over his shoulder, he doesn't hit you. On the contrary, it offers you a series of tools to have more visibility and sell more. Marketing has been around forever, the Catholic Church has been an expert in marketing, managing to place her book as the best-selling book in history.

No matter how good your book is, if you can't reach your readers, it won't do any good. Even if you plan to submit your manuscript to a publisher, you will have better chances if you know how to sell it. To make a living from writing, you need to develop certain marketing skills and keep up with new trends that are emerging.

You have to know how to plan a launch, set monthly and quarterly goals and review the results, as well as adjust them. Or, if you prefer, find someone else to do it for you.

Goals, planning and time

Believe it or not, writing a book requires some planning. This will change depending on whether you are a map writer, a compass writer, a two-man writer, or a ship wrecked adrift. Either way, creating a basic schedule can help you finish a project.

I am a complete disaster in organizational matters. I've tried using every single project management and planning app in the world and always quit after two or three weeks. All except Trello.

In your case it can be an Excel sheet, it doesn't matter. What is important is that you learn to plan and organize time. Both those of writing, as those of revision of the project, as well as those of promotion. Learn to set dates and work with them. Also learn to set SMART goals, that you can measure and know when you reach them and when you don't.

Promote you

This goes hand in hand with marketing. I think this is the part that most of those who "despise" marketing hate. When we promote ourselves we feel like a flea market vendor. That's valid, I understand, I've been there. But honestly, what's wrong with being a flea market vendor? They are honest people who do their job.

That doesn't mean you have to spend the day promoting your work on Twitter either. By now, looping your book with the sell link should be out of date (unfortunately it is not).

To promote yourself well, you need to have marketing knowledge, but you can do it without bothering anyone. You have many tools at your disposal:

  • Email marketing
  • Blog
  • Guest posting
  • Podcasts
  • Youtube Channel
  • Social media
  • And a lot more ideas that Ana tells you in the podcast

Promotion is an essential part of writing, because to make a living from writing, you will need to generate income. There is nothing sold without promotion, not even food. Imagine a book.

Have patience

Yes. My last advice is to be patient. Patience and tenacity. Living from writing is a long-distance race. With welcome exceptions, you will not live on your first book, or your second, not even the third or fourth. To make a living from writing, you have to create a reading base so that people can get to know you.

Every book you write and publish has to increase your reader base. Every book you publish will surprise new readers who will dive into your other works to get to know you. Ana says something very true in almost all her talks: your new books, they pull on the old ones.

It's like when you discover a new music group on Spotify, the most normal thing is that you go looking for all their greatest hits.

Writing is a very lonely job. It is also hard, sometimes painful, and almost always thankless. As if that weren't enough with all this, along the way you will find unpleasant people who will try to trip you up, envious colleagues who will try to harm you, editorials of dubious quality and honesty who will try to take advantage of you, and impertinent readers (or people paid to leave bad feedback).

Faced with this you can do nothing. It goes with the trade. This is why you need a great deal of patience if you want to survive your first year as a writer. It is convenient not to despair and keep typing.


These 8 tips will help you on your way to make a living from your writing. Of course, they are not the only ones and I doubt they are the best. They are, simply, the ones that have worked for me (that's why they are the only ones I can give you). If you have any other tips that you want to share with everyone, please feel free to do so in the comments.